Punch Neapolitan Pizza
704 Cleveland Ave S, St Paul MN
I went to my college reunion this weekend and may have stumbled on the future of Neapolitan pizza in the United States. Punch Neapolitan Pizza was founded in 1996 by John Sorrano. Sorrano and his family had moved to Italy when he was 8 and he spent a lot of time in a pizzeria there. While on his honeymoon in France in 1995, he and his new bride stumbled upon a Neapolitan pizzeria and he was reinspired. Six months later, he opened the first Punch Neapolitan Pizza. He clearly knew what he was doing as Punch's pizza was certified as authentic by Vera Pizza Napoleatana.
To people who are in love with Neapolitan pizza, that certification is important. More important to the long-term success of Punch is that in 2000, regular customer John Puckett bought into the company. That's the same John Puckett who started Caribou Coffee, sold it, and has a whole lot of money and entrepreneurial experience. There are now five locations in the Twin Cities and a new one is set to open this summer. I suspect there will be many more in the near future.
On to the pizza...
There are two basic pies at Punch: the Margherita which is made with basil, and the Napoli, which is made with oregano. They offer almost 20 different combinations of toppings as well as a build-it-yourself option. All of the pizzas are very thin and cook in an 800 degree wood-burning oven for 90 seconds. As is common with Neapolitan pizza, toppings are fairly sparse and my sausage margherita was no exception. The sausage, which is homemade, is excellent, but there is just not much of it. The sweet sauce, made from crushed San Marzano tomatoes was very good and there was more of it than I expected (but still not enough for my liking). I ordered mine Doppio, which means it has extra mozzarella di buffala. That was a wise decision as the cheese, which is flown in from Naples weekly, was outstanding. Someday I would love to try a stuffed pizza made with mozzarella di buffala. It would cost a fortune, but it would be good.
My cousin got a kid's size margherita with pepperoni which he liked a lot. From what I could tell, the pepperoni was higher in quality than the typical Hormel-style that most places use.
My only complaint about the pizza (aside from my standard gripes about Neapolitan style not having enough toppings or sauce or cheese) was that there was too much olive oil on it. The crust, which had a great taste, was soggy. To eat each piece, I folded the piece in half horizontally and again vertically. That was the easiest way to avoid a mess. And because the pizza is so thin, when I folded it twice, each bite was still smaller than a bite of deep dish or stuffed pizza.
For a Neapolitan pizza, I was very happy with Punch. It was every bit as good as Spacca Napoli, but lacked all of the pretension of the popular Ravenswood spot. Hopefully, the company will expand to Chicago soon.
And the Sausage Pizza...
Behold, the Oven!
Where it went down...
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Monday, June 09, 2008
Punch Neapolitan Pizza